Armed Services subpanel wants assurances on cyber vulnerabilities

Armed Services subpanel wants assurances on cyber vulnerabilities

A House Armed Services Committee subpanel on Tuesday directed the Defense Department and other federal agencies to report to Congress on their efforts to make sure U.S. weapons can sustain new kinds of warfare, including cyber attack.

In the first of a series of portions of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee released language expressing concern that “progress on the identification and remediation of cyber vulnerabilities on vital legacy platforms may be lagging.”

The subpanel — which oversees the Pentagon’s programs on counterterrorism, counter proliferation, defense intelligence, special operations, technology and cyber operations — directs Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to identify and assess any potential weak spots and report back.

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The measure directs the Government Accountability Office to review and assess how DOD transfers technology to glean whether any efficiencies can be gained.

The 19-member subcommittee authorizes all funds for U.S. Cyber and Special Operations commands. They also call for making the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Special Operations Headquarters, established in the fiscal 2010 defense policy bill, permanent.

The legislation instructs Carter to provide a strategy to counter unconventional warfare threats being posed by Russia, Iran and other countries.

It also gives the Pentagon chief the authority to establish a pilot program to counter propaganda efforts by Russia and terror groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

House members also request that the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman develop a plan for integrating advanced technologies, such as directed energy weapons, hypersonic strike systems and autonomous systems, into future war games in a bid to “improve socialization with the warfighter and the development and experimentation of various concepts for employment by the Armed Forces.”

The chairman would have to submit that proposal 180 days after the NDAA is signed into law, according to the document.

Sections of the annual defense policy blueprint will be marked up Wednesday and Thursday by their respective subcommittees. 

Panel chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) will release his “chairman’s mark” of the NDAA on April 27, followed by a full committee markup April 29.